Mario, meet the Rabbids
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for Nintendo Switch is a crossover video game that simply works. It elegantly merges Nintendo’s Super Mario and Ubisoft’s Rabbid franchises, placing them in a rich turn-based tactical setting. It’s colourful and cheery, challenging and fun, and yet another reason why Nintendo Switch is having a sensational debut year.
At E3 I had a favourable first impression, but little did I know how amazing this game would end up. While it was developed by Ubisoft’s Paris/Milan studios, it feels like a Mario game straight out of Nintendo’s HQ in Kyoto, Japan. Teeming with personality and flush with fresh, innovative gameplay ideas, this is a Nintendo Switch game not miss.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Introducing the Rabbid doppelgangers
Being a Mario/Rabbids crossover game, naturally the first question that popped into my mind was “how will these worlds collide?” As it turns out, it’s because of the SupaMerge helmet—a device that synthesizes two objects into a singular entity. You can likely guess what happens then: familiar Super Mario characters accidentally get merged with a bunch of mischievous Rabbids.
Meeting these Mario/Rabbids hybrid characters is an utter joy. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Yoshi have Rabbid counterparts that look goofy, babble uncontrollably, and are just plain silly. They also have absurd looks and mannerisms sure to make you laugh out loud from time to time. Rabbid Mario has a moustache with no nose, Rabbid Luigi is totally frumpy, and Rabbid Peach is just plain awkward-looking. I mean all this in a good way—they’re the most interesting new characters I’ve seen in a long time.
Trouble in the Mushroom Kingdom
Unsurprisingly, the SupaMerge soon winds up in a familiar bad guy’s hands, though probably not the one you’re thinking of. His plan, of course, is to use the device to destroy Mario, while taking the Mushroom Kingdom for his own. Luckily, Mario has a few Rabbids up his sleeve.
With Rabbid buddies by your side, you’ll travel through four unique worlds, each divided into nine chapters. The goal is to retrieve the helmet before it unleashes chaos, which of course it eventually (and unfortunately) does. Along the journey you’ll meet plenty of Mario-meets-Rabbids hybrid characters, many of whom will try to stop you in your tracks. The merged duos are genuinely fun, sometimes surprising, and result in some amazing edge-of-your-seat boss battles.
Turn-based tactical combat
At its core, Mario + Rabbids is turn-based tactical adventure in the same vein as 2K Games’ XCOM franchise. Battles are divided into grids, and each character has a set move distance and attack range. Like XCOM, there are high walls that provide full cover, and half walls that provide a 50% evade chance.
You’re able to bring three characters into battles, however at least one of them must be a Rabbid. It seems like an arbitrary constraint but I’m fine with it—the Rabbids are just so much fun to use. To say the battle sequences are fun is an understatement; for me, they were a sheer joy. The graphics are beautiful and colourful, enemy A.I. is keenly smart, and performing team combos are a blast. Fun has literally been encoded into the heart of this game.
From dashing leg sweeps, to Mario head stomps, to long-range blasters, there’s no shortage of offensive moves at your disposal. The more you play the more strategic combat gets, too, since you continuously unlock new skills and acquire new characters. Luigi is a long-range sniper, Rabbid Peach is your team healer, and Yoshi dishes out pummeling rapid-fire damage. Discovering new combo strategies is simple and satisfying, and it helps keep combat feeling fresh even after dozens of hours.
Mario + Rabbids contains a plethora of weapons, more than 10 models for each weapon and sub-weapons. That amounts to a whopping 250+ weapons to acquire in all. They come in a nice range, as well, including straight-forward blasters, sniper rifles, shotguns, Gatling guns, and even remote-control drones.
What I like best about the weapons, though, are all the fantastic designs. Blasters can be shaped Bullet Bills, have Piranha Plant skins, or feature protruding Koopa spikes. A lot of thought and care has gone into creating the weapons, making it a joy to discover new ones.
There’s one more thing worth noting about the weapons: Super Effects. Weapons have a percentage chance of unleashing Super Effects, which are akin to getting a critical hit. These effects range from Honey that sticks foes in place, to Burn that sets them on fire and sends them scrambling. Super Effects make a huge impact in battles and they’re great to experiment with. But watch out: your enemies can use them on you, too!
Visit Peach’s Castle
After you progress to specific point you’ll unlock Princess Peach’s Castle, the game’s hub world. There are lots of things to see and do, like collect coins and visit various buildings. In the Battle HQ you can buy and assign weapons, as well as spend skill points to upgrade your characters. Over in the museum you’re able to browse 3D figures, soundtracks, and other collectibles you’ve found on the journey.
To incentivize replay, entering the Washing Time Machine lets you revisit past worlds for special challenges. The battlefields will be familiar, but the enemies and win conditions get remixed. Completing special challenges can be quite rewarding, giving you Coins and Power Orbs to further upgrade your heroes.
Last but certainly not least, Peach’s Castle is also home for the Co-op building. Here you can play additional co-op missions with a friend in local multiplayer. Each player picks two characters (four total), which is one more than the solo campaign’s limit of three. Adding an extra character means you can come with even bigger combos, and new strategies to defeat enemies. Just remember that friendly fire is on—you can damage your allies if you’re not careful!
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is another huge feather in Nintendo Switch’s cap. It successfully merges the worlds of Mario and Rabbids into a fresh, fun new adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the new Rabbid characters, and was very satisfied with the comical ways they entered the story. Weapons are vast and unique, fully embracing the immense history these franchises possess. With its lengthy campaign, special challenge missions, and two-player co-op, Mario + Rabbids will keep you happily gaming for a long time to come.
+ New Rabbid characters are awesome
+ Funny, charming story
+ Love the weapon variety and designs
+ Highly strategic gameplay
+ Includes co-op and special challenges
+ Looks and sounds wonderful
– Can’t preview attack range after moving
– Occasionally overly difficult
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5